Please note: due to changes in regulations and constant design developments, we sometimes need to change details such as binding and inlay materials.
There is so much more I could say about all this, and I'm not sure if I've managed to get the message across in this video. I do tap and listen to the wood while I'm working on it, but I do not wish to “tune” the soundboard. I see this from my engineering point of view, aiming for smooth even stress distribution, and strength in the right places. Every guitar that we make feeds some information into the next guitar that we make. It's a cumulative process, small incremental improvements over a long period of time which, when added together, make a significant improvement. In industry and sport, it's called “the theory of marginal gains”. In my case, it's over fifty years and nearly 10,000 instruments, with the results judged by the music and the players, not just my ears.
It was sort of a dream, a way of getting extra, high quality, production and reduce the personal stress. Also of course, I do love clever machines, but I like to design and make them myself. Why would I want one big super clever machine that did everything and left me twiddling my thumbs, when I could spend the rest of my life making lots of little devices and keeping a big cheeky grin on my face? .
And here is one such device, it's the latest of probably ten different fret slotters that I've made over the years, and by far the most sophisticated. A factory would use a CNC machine to do exactly this job, and every maker has their own solution. It's an interesting situation for me, as there’s a constant argument about what constitutes “handmade". In reality, every maker does use machines, probably a minimum of circular saw, bandsaw and drill plus almost certainly a router and several sanders. Professional quality work isn't feasible without them. Hand work carries on the process from there, and we spend something like 90% or more of our time "at the bench".
I've been making little bits and pieces, and bigger bits and pieces, ever since I started making guitars sixty years ago, and I don't throw them away, so I have a lot. Everyone improves our efficiency and quality. I design them myself, and I make them myself. By hand.
The factory inspector won't like a lot of this. Oh well, who's going to see it? I'm sure you won't tell him.
I made the drawknife from an old planer blade more than twenty years ago. It's a beautiful, sensual tool to work with and as long as the wood grain is reasonably "friendly" I can get very close to the finished shape with the drawknife alone, just allowing a fraction for the final sanding. The neck shape is very important, critical even, and I think the video makes it look a lot easier than it is, but I've shaped about eight thousand necks this way over a period of fifty years, and it's one of my favourite jobs.
A machine does not gain any experience or learn any new skills, not even the very expensive Fadal VMC which you can see in the background, which I've had for twenty years, but apart from a few truss rod covers has never been used. I can't get it out now without taking the roof off.
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